Category: Reviews

My Favorite Films of 2018

February 10th, 2019

It’s that time of year again!

What a year for movies — a very strange, crazy year.

Two of the Academy Award nominations for Best Picture — Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice — scored in the 60s on Rotten Tomatoes, the number one website for collecting movie reviews. A third film — Green Book — got a tepid 81% score.

And here’s the thing, I think one or two of them should win!

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My Favorite Films of 2017

March 2nd, 2018

And MY envelope goes to …

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani star in The Big Sick.


Maybe it’s the escapism, putting my mind into a different scenario each time the lights dim and the credits begin. Perhaps it’s the shared experience of seeing movies with others. After all, scientists say we all tend to blink at the same time when we sit together watching movies. But for whatever reason, I’ve been drawn to movies all my life at an almost obsessive level.

I have been writing various versions of these film review pieces for decades and I think it’s partly because I become so immersed in whatever I’m watching, that a piece of me feels like it’s playing a part in the actual movie. Sometimes it feels as though I’m a bit player, just out of camera range. That explains why I don’t do horror films; I empathetically feel all the tension and violence. The Oscar-nominated Get Out was a real struggle for me. Seeing Dunkirk in true IMAX with Dolby multidimensional sound also might not have been my smartest move. It was too vivid, too in-your-face, in-your-body even. I guess I like being a part of it all, unless I’m in danger and can’t hide underneath my seat quickly enough!

So here we go with my picks from the past year. I promise it won’t be too scary, violent or intense.  Read More…

“Two” of the Best Films of 2016 (so far)

August 14th, 2016

A few hits you may have missed

Sooooo … halfway through the movie year, there are two films I’d like to share and encourage you to see.

“What,” you ask, “August comes eight months into the year, Rodney, how can you say we’re halfway?”

Actually, I’m a bit early. The Academy Awards this year were on February 28th. Everyone knows nothing of note gets released in the new year leading up to the Oscars. (Well, except one of my favorites, but that’s not important right now and it destroys my premise.)

Since the summer blockbuster season has been one of the worst in recent memory, I’d like to restore some hope as I highlight a few of the best movies I’ve seen so far.

Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next is a wide-ranging, sweeping documentary told in his classic style where he sits himself squarely inside of the narrative. On camera and in voice-over segments, Mr. Moore shows Americans what’s great about other countries and how we can bring those traits back here. There’s a fantastic surprise ending, too. Suffice it to say, the movie exudes hope and encouragement for the United State’s future.

Fans of Michael Moore — and I’m definitely one of them — will love everything about the movie. Detractors will find a lot to like too. If you’re a citizen of America or the world, you’ll probably come away inspired by Where To Invade Next.

I met the man back during the summer of 1987 in Flint, Michigan. He showed up at a few different news events that I was covering as a photographer and it was great chatting with the then largely unknown writer/director/star. He was working on his landmark documentary Roger & Me. Since then, he’s gone on to make many memorable contributions to cinema. His latest is one of his finest. You can rent, stream or buy it anywhere.

The other fantastic film of 2016 is Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice. The funny and frantic world of improv comedy is viewed through a loving, emotional and seemingly very real-life lens. A New York City band of comedians is thrown into turmoil as some of their members are invited to audition for “Weekend Live,” a fictional Saturday Night Live substitute.

Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci and others react to and deal with the shakeup to their tightly woven team. It’s a fantastic psychological glimpse into group and individual dynamics. Poignant, yet playful, the movie hits lots of different notes: abandonment and contentment; sadness and joy, responsibility to self & group; and — oh yeah — it’s awfully darn funny!

Unfortunately, Don’t Think Twice is still in a limited movie house run. Fortunately it’s playing at my favorite independent theatre — The Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan. But it’s bound to hit more theaters before it starts its second life streaming or on the DVD rental and retail market.

Oh yeah, there’s one other movie you might want to look for, Sam Neill’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Longtime Jemaine Clement collaborator Taika Waititi wrote and directed the movie about a troubled foster child coming to live with Neill’s character in the wilderness of New Zealand. Look for Rhys Darby, Murray from Flight of the Conchords. It’s still in some theaters, but it hits the rental market next month.

And for now, here’s hoping for a bumper crop of extraordinary films amongst the upcoming fall and winter releases.